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  • Caroline Wright

On close encounters

My beer is running low. I make my way through a crowded bar to order another. I slide in between a man and an empty wooden stool.

Hmm...There's a scarf and purse on the seat next to his. I ask the guy if he knows who they belong to, but he shakes his head, so I sit down.

Almost instantly the man—I’ll call him Wey—and I engage in conversation. We talk about my writing projects; he discusses his automotive work.

With excitement, he states: “I’ve never met a writer before!” This is flattering. I like it.

He offers to buy me another drink. No, I shouldn't. I insist I'm all set.

After a good ten minutes, Wey makes a comment about being engaged.

But he's been flirting with me this whole time!

Next I find out his fiancé is somewhere inside the bar.

I'm sitting on her purse, aren't I?

I ask him why he wasn't truthful about the items on the chair, and why he let on as though he were single.

“I’ve never met a writer before!” he explains.

Seconds later, there she is—Mrs. Wey-to-be—probably wondering why I'm loitering on and around her belongings, fiancé included.


And so I went, immediately after sighting the U.F.O. (Unforeseen Fiancé Obstruction).


My stunted imagination

I imagine…

waking up Saturday mornings

wearing your scented button-up,

waiting in bed while you make us breakfast;

confused, though, when I hear a crack and sizzle

realizing you’re opening a can of Coca-Cola Classic…

almost instantly my clothes are back on and something came up.


We have all experienced the invigorating nature of a novel person, place or thing.

(No way! A new Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor?)

In fact, the novelty effect has interested scientists for years. While results of the "Hawthorne Effect" (where a study of changes in work structure and lighting were altered to see how it affected factory workers' production) has been scrutinized for years, many seem to theorize that people's overall awareness is heightened, and productivity increased, with the introduction of a new component in one's environment—especially when one senses he or she is being observed.

But the novelty effect can also block your vantage point, especially in a relationship, if you grant excitement too much control over your decision-making process. Therefore, to help see past the newness, while at the same time remain enlivened, yet grounded, follow the advice of one of my most favorite colleagues. His is a simple rule, really:

Three “Yikes!” and you’re out.

While behaviors vary greatly, you can tell a lot by your reaction to a given situation. If ever you find yourself saying “yikes” more than twice, you may want to consider heading in the opposite direction.

(To be clear, “yikes” expressions are typically accompanied by a scrunching of the face gesture following an unpleasant experience.)

Here are three classic examples of “Yikes!” situations:

1. You’re on a date and your date is late.

(No, not yet…)

Upon arrival, he or she apologizes: “Sorry! Had to drop the ex off at work on the way over!”

(Yes, now…)


2. You’re out on a date and your date's cell phone lights up. The contact name appears as “Babe.”


3. As your date clenches the coffee cup, you notice a tan line around his or her ring finger.


After one “yikes,” you may simply want to clarify the situation. With two, you could consider looking the other way, but it may be a good idea to start keeping your options open again. After the third "yikes," it's time to take a hike.


Like a new toy, a novel relationship is intriguing and entertaining at first. It's amusing to play under a new, metaphorical microscope when both parties are usually behaving as their best, most enchanting selves. But the idea is to be able to enjoy each other and continue playing over time, not just temporarily. While it may be fun and games while there's lots of mystery to uncover, remember that mystery is only fun until sh*# gets scary.

Pay attention when people start to uncover their x-files. The clues they unveil could mean the difference between a welcome and lasting intimate encounter, or one of the already-taken kind.


Rudi de Wet of Capetown, South Africa, creates illustrations in the form of typography art—where written words are used to create an overall visual image. The featured piece was created in 2007 as a whimsical wedding invitation for an engaged couple.

More of his typography art is displayed here:

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